Wednesday, January 7, 2009

THE CROOKED PATH OF ETERNITY

.
One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

How could God be so remiss as to not give the ancients a word denoting "eternity"? As we mentioned in our last SONSHINE blog on "time" there has never been found before the time of Christ any word in the ancient languages, artifacts, writings, philosophies or theologies denoting the concept of "timelessness or endless time." To think our omniscient God would have forgotten to give that concept to the Hebrews is amazing don't ya think. How short sighted of Him not to match "eternity" with "punishment" in regard to those that are found to be at enmity with Him. Come on God, what is religion without the whip of "eternal suffering" for those that don't play by the rules.

One author put it this way with regard to such great an omission.


I pause here long enough to raise this question: Is it possible that our heavenly Father had created a world of endless torture, to which his children for thousands of years were crowding in myriads, and that he not only had not revealed the fact to them, but was so shortsighted that he had not given them a word to express the fact, or even a capacity sufficient to bring the idea of the eternal suffering to which they were liable, within the compass of the cognition? He created the horse for man’s use, and created man capable of comprehending the horse; he surrounded him with multitudes of animate and inanimate objects, each of which he could name and comprehend, but the most important subject of all-one which must be believed in, or eternal woe is the penalty, he not only had no name for, but was incapable of the faintest conception of the mere fact! Would, or could a good Father be guilty of such an omission?

ENTER TERTULLIAN, JEROME, AUGUSTINE AND JUSTINIAN TO CORRECT GOD'S OMISSION

Tertullian (160 to 220) set system of theology in Latin replacing the accepted Greek form.

Jerome (347 – 420) translator of the scriptures into the Vulgate, an early Fifth Century version of the Bible in Latin.

Augustine (354 – 430) made eternal torment the 'official' church doctrine, which contributes mightily to the continuance of today's dark age theology.

Justinian (483 – 565) Eastern roman emperor who strengthened the Roman church and Holy See (papal authority) with it's dual hierarchical chaste system of clergy ruling over laity. Eternal reward and eternal damnation were powerful tools in keeping obeisance strong in the church.

These are the main culprits or church fathers that were responsible for the conception and furtherance of that horrendous doctrine we know as "eternal torment in hell." We won't get into the misapplications of the word "hell" for Hades, Sheol, Tartarus and Gehenna but will limit ourselves to the misuse of "eternal" with it's derivatives in regard to God's workings. I will say this. Eternal torment is another glaring example of how everything the church teaches today is wrong. Yes, it is all the opposite of truth; so great is the darkness and so subtle is the wicked heart of the natural and unregenerate man that turns Life into religion. So a word describing the environment of God's dealings with man becomes an antonym, as "aion" in Greek, "olam" in Hebrew and "aevum" in Latin become erroneously "eternal". That which denoted time and age (aion, olam and aevum & derivatives ) now become endless, forever and everlasting. Why was this done?

It is always about power and these brilliant church theologians knew from the get go that you raise the ante for church members by making greater the reward for faithful service and more horrific the punishment for slothfulness and rejection. Of course with this come a "works" mindset that sets in motion "self righteousness" for those that work the hardest. Can there be a better way to build a religious organization. I think not and my personal genealogy stretching back centuries testifies to the natural allure and subsequent captivity by this religious organization. I imagine so it is with many of your family backgrounds also.

So with all that said I want to center my attention on the first of the culprits to promote the concept of "eternity in relation with reward and punishment." I speak of Tertullian and if you share with one still caught in the throes of "hell" of the harlot church this little history is a good one to know and recite. With this lesson, we are getting to the origins of the terrible "hellfire doctrine" that has taken love and grace and and replaced it with fear and dead works. Thus religion is born counterfeit to all that is truth in Christ Jesus. To recognize and know the workings of such deceitful spirits binding and moving men in false religion is to stand in awe, as I am sure John the Revelator did while describing his vision of Mystery Babylon.

On a side note, knowing the apostasy that came in by way of the Roman Church it is not hard to understand why many Protestants would believe Babylon, as being the Roman Catholic Church itself. Sadly those that would make that identification blindly carry no recognition of how their own protestant creeds and beliefs are but a facsimile of that which was laid out by the early Roman Church fathers. Sadder yet is, that these deluded protestants have no clue that Mystery Babylon speaks first and foremost to a heart condition wrought in all carnal men. Yes indeed Babylon is a great mystery to most and one has only to read the words of Revelation 18 to view the wondrously wicked nature of this beast system of carnal soulish worship. We all have felt, glimpsed and experienced the whore and as we walk deeper in the liberty of His light and life does not our vision of the painted lady of religion only grow more incredulous in her allure and power. Oh, the battles we have suffered both within and without as the whore has fallen in our lives.

So without further adieu allow me to share a few paragraphs on Tertullian along with a short word on Justinian as penned by Alexander Thomson in his book "Whence Eternity Slipped In." As I alluded to earlier, should you share with the disbelievers of "a benevolent Father God that reconciles all in Love" this is powerfully good material to mark their error in espousing "eternal torment." How often I sit with Christian men and women brilliant in their fields of knowledge yet they have never taken the time to see where by, the origins of "hell and damnation." The inexplicable nature of such slothful and willful ignorance only proves the power and hold of Babylon the Great!


TERTULLIAN
At this point we must turn to Carthage in North Africa, and in particular to Tertullian, and take careful note of their profound and lasting influence over Christendom. Tertullian lived from about 160 to 220 A.D. Born at Carthage, he became a well-read scholar, an attractive orator and writer, a keen controversialist, and a clever lawyer. What Origen was, about the same period, to Greek or Eastern Christianity, Tertullian was to Latin or Western Christianity. He was the first one to set about systematically to explain the Scriptures in the Latin tongue of North Africa, and the first theologian to establish a technical Latin terminology for Christianity. It is no exaggeration to say that the choice of terms of this Latin scholar has profoundly affected all succeeding theological thought. It is to Tertullian that we owe such terms as trinity, substance, person, redemption, justification, sanctification, sacrament, and many more, including probably such as perdition, perish, destroy, punish, torment, damnation, dispensation, predestination, revelation, priest, mediator, minister, congregation, propitiation,—all terms from the Latin, although it is possible some of these may be due to Jerome. These terms are all different from the Greek words used, although some of the meanings correspond fairly well. Tertullian was the first writer to set out to expound the difficult doctrine of the "trinity," and to use this term, which, however, he does not use as a name for God. Dr. Glover says, "He was the first man of genius of the Latin race to follow Jesus Christ, and to reset his ideas in the language native to that race." Archbishop Benson says, "When Tertullian began to write, theological Latin had to be formed." Harnack says, "What influenced the history of dogma was not his Christianity, but his masterly power of framing formulae." Up till his time Roman Christianity had been essentially Greek in form, but when he embraced it, Latin terms and thoughts were introduced, which gradually but steadily altered the whole character of its teaching, and paved the way for the Roman Catholic system of dogma. Dr. Swete says, "The Church in North Africa was the first Christian community so far as we know which offered the Eucharist for the benefit of the departed." One of the terms introduced by Tertullian was "satisfaction." Harnack says, "He was the first to regard definitely such ascetic performances as `satisfaction' as propitiatory offerings by which the sinner could make amends to God." According to Tertullian, a comparatively brief ascetic punishment inflicted by the believer on himself took the place of what the damned were awarded—eternal punishment. It should prove instructive to glance at some of his other views.

Like many today, he could never come to grasp the important yet elementary fact that God is spirit. That God was conciliated was quite unknown to him and to those who followed in his steps. Being well trained in Roman law he looked on God much more as the Judge who gives the law and must be obeyed, than as the Father of all. All relations between God and man partake of the nature of legal transactions, and thus a good act by man brings satisfaction to God and merit to man. But the fundamental relationship is that of fear on man's part. The great difference between the Greek Church and the Latin Church consisted in this, that the Greek Church looked upon revelation as expressing God in His relation to man, while the Latin Church began with man, and saw primarily man as in relation to God. God's measureless love and grace were viewed as at the disposal of man, or man was viewed as the fallen and guilty rebel measured up before the Judge. The one commenced with God and His love, operating all things in accord with the counsel of His will from past ages for the ultimate good of the race, ever seeking to draw man to Himself and instruct him with a view to his well-being and growth in grace. The other saw man as on probation, and God as the magistrate. Instead of men being gradually instructed in the ways and mind of God, they must subscribe without question or discussion to the Creed, the rigid and crystallized expression of the Latin Church's views. As Farrar says, the centre of Origen's system was God and hope, while that of Augustine's was punishment and sin; whereas Origen yearns for a final unity, Augustine almost exultingly acquiesces in a frightful and abiding dualism.

It was reserved for three great Carthaginians, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine, so to influence the Latin Church that it deflected and declined into a system of dogmatic hierarchy and spiritual despotism. But Tertullian was the individual who set this current in motion. Through his powerful instrumentality Christendom, at the critical juncture, took the wrong turn, and his influence still prevails. Neander says of him, that his mind was often at a loss for suitable forms of phraseology, as he had more within him than he could express, and for this purpose he was obliged to create a language for the new spiritual matter, out of the rude Punic Latin. It has been said that Tertullian often makes use of words not found in general use outside of the very early writers, and that he often imparts to words a new or unusual force.

This, then, is the man in the hollow of whose hands lay the clay which was to be moulded into concrete Latin dogma. This is the man in whose hands reclined the fate of the word eternal. What meaning did he give to it? Its old meaning, akin to the Greek eonian, or something beyond that? Being quite devoid of any understanding of the eons of Scripture, destitute of a real perception of the fact that God is love, unable to view God but as a stern Judge who must somehow or other be "Satisfied" or placated, how was it possible for him to look on the mass of mankind otherwise than as damned? Augustine, who later outdid Tertullian and his doctrines, maintained that the whole human race was "one damned batch and mass of perdition" (conspersis damnata, massa perditionis), out of which a few are elected to salvation, while all the remainder are lost for ever. He beheld evil as a force integral in a universe apart from God, while Origen believed that all is out from God, even evil, which God must undo and banish. One who has no place for eons to come must needs look on the future as a shoreless eternity. Having failed to grasp what God had revealed concerning the eons, Tertullian had no alternative but to impart to the Latin word eternal that sense which it now bears. Not only so, but this special meaning of the Latin word, taking advantage of the steady decline of Greek as the language of theology and the rise and ascendancy of Latin, reacted upon, and was imposed upon, its Greek equivalent eonian, which henceforth in theology was "made to express" the meaning of everlasting.


JUSTINIAN, Emperor Constantinople 6th century
........... he wished it made very plain that the life of the saints was to be everlasting, and that the doom of the lost was to be likewise. Yet he did not argue that the word eonian meant everlasting. Nor did he claim that the word eonian had hitherto been misunderstood. In setting forth the orthodox position of the Church of that time, he did not say, "We believe in eonian punishment," as this was exactly what Origen, three hundred years before, had maintained and believed. In fact, Origen, who exulted in the truth of the reconciliation of the universe, definitely used the word eonian with reference to fire and doom as meaning a limited time. But writing in the very expressive Greek language, Justinian says, "The holy church of Christ teaches an endless eonian (ateleuteetos ai├Ánios) life for the just, and endless (ateleuteetos) punishment for the wicked." Justinian knew quite well that by itself eonian did not signify endless, and he therefore added a word the meaning of which is quite unequivocal, a word not found in the Scriptures. This letter of Justinian, which is still in existence, ought to convince anyone who is in doubt, regarding the true scriptural meaning of the word eonian. It may be added, that the Council, though expressly convened in order to stigmatize the teachings of Origen, one of which was that punishment was only temporary, condemned his views generally, but did not anathematize his teaching regarding the reconciliation of all. It was not until the year 696, at Constantinople, that a Council publicly condemned this doctrine of Origen for the first time, the glorious teaching being called "drunken ravings as to the future life of the dead."

So it is what it is. A talented disputatious teacher, orator and lawyer Tertullian picks a path and sets a golden calf a trodden. Two millenia later the majority follow that crooked path and you and I will pay hell and high water to convince the crowd, the broad path is destructive and full of death. It was only a couple weeks ago, with tears, I shared with a table full of tradition laden Christians, the message of "the Big Cross that reconciles all". This message of Love and Life was received with eyes glazed over and discomfort filling the air. It seems, as still yet I am not ordained to preach.

The Calf Path
by S.W. Foss

One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail, all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then 300 years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still, he left behind his trail
And thereby hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way.
And then, a wise bell weathered sheep
Pursued the trail, o'er~vale and steep,
And drew the flocks behind him too
As good bell weathers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade
Thru those old woods, a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path,
But still they followed, do not laugh,
The first migrations of that calf.
And thru the winding woods they stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street.
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowed thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis.
And men, two centuries and a half
Trod the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a 100 thousand route
Followed the zig-zag calf about,
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A 100 thousand men were led
By one calf, near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way
And lost 100 years per day.
For this such reverence is lent
To well establish precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained , and called to preach.
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out, and in, and forth, and back,
And still their devious course pursue
To keep the paths that others do.

They keep the paths a sacred groove
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh
Who saw that first primeval calf.
Ah, many things this tale might teach,
But I am not ordained to preach.


Ah but the good report is, that if by the growing pain in my heart for the blind followers of the calf path be any indication the time to preach is close, even on the horizon. That excites me and I hope you also. A new aion is dawning in Christ Jesus!

Jack/John


Note:
From Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word aion is said to mean age or a human lifetime.

The Analytical Greek Lexicon (Pub. Zondervan), the Greek word aion is said to mean "a period of time of significant character; life; an era; an age."

William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the meaning of aion is "time, age."

Lexicons in Young's and Strong's concordances, the Greek word aion also is indicated as meaning an age or time.

The word "Aionios" by itself, whether adjective or substantive, never means endless" Canon Farrar

"The conception of eternity, in the Semitic languages, is that of a long duration and series of ages." Rev. J. S. Blunt-- Dictionary of Theology.

"Tis notoriously known, that the Jews, whether writing in Hebrew or Greek, do by 'olam' (the Hebrew word corresponding to "aion"), and aion mean any remarkable period or duration, whether it be of life, or dispensation, or polity." Bishop Rust

The word aion is never used in Scripture, or anywhere else, in the sense of endlessness (vulgarly called eternity), it always meant, both in Scripture and out, a period of time; else how could it have a plural--how could you talk of the aeons and aeons of aeons as the Scripture does? C. Kingsley

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